EDA Grant to Sustain UO’s Lasting Rural Economic Development Efforts

A common problem in rural economic development is that communities with economic development agendas often lack adequate technical knowledge or staffing to achieve the innovation and entrepreneurship goals they are pursuing. A new $125,000 grant is helping the University of Oregon’s Economic Development Administration Center (EDAC) with its long-running effort to fill those needs.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and will allow the UO’s Community Service Center to continue to provide technical assistance to businesses and organizations in economically distressed communities throughout Oregon.

“Building local capacity is the foundation of our approach,” says Robert Parker, director of the Community Service Center. “Our goal is to build the capacity in communities to set strong, forward-looking policies, develop collaborative networks, and mobilize new investment resources.”

The UO’s EDAC puts graduate students into rural communities, where they receive field-based learning experience in helping businesses address such needs as job creation or expansion. Under the new grant, the center will work in conjunction with the UO Department of Economics and Lane Community College’s office of the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network to build long-term partnerships in EDA Grant to Sustain UO’s Lasting Rural Economic Development Efforts economically distressed counties.

The grant will direct $125,000 a year to the EDAC for up to five years under a matching-support arrangement to fund a $1.3 million project. The center will continue its strong service-learning approach, which it implemented under an initial round of EDA funding three years ago.

The center’s focus will include economic development in collaboration with local governments, Oregon’s Native American tribes, and private businesses. One of the aims will be helping businesses conduct feasibility studies and analyses. A key partner in that initiative is Drive Oregon, a nonprofit public-private group seeking to promote, support, and grow the electric vehicle industry in Oregon.

The UO’s EDAC is one of several service portals of the Community Service Center and has a long list of completed projects. It is involved in impact analyses of the Latino business community and the snow-ski industry across the state, as well as the development of a comprehensive business strategy for the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua tribe. Other initiatives include a review of water quality issues in Turner, Oregon, and an evaluation of the Eugene Water and Electric Board’s pilot program for smart meters.